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Partzufim/Partsufim (Hebrew: פרצופים, singular Partzuf, Hebrew: פרצוף), meaning Divine "Personae / Visages / Faces / Forms / Configurations", are particular reconfigured arrangements of the 10 sephirot Divine attributes/emanations of Kabbalah into harmonised interactions in Creation. Their names derive from mystical discourses in the Zohar, the foundational text of Kabbalah, where they appear as synonymous manifestation terms for the sephirot. Their full doctrinal significance emerges only in 16th century Lurianic Kabbalah in relationship to the cosmic processes of Shevirah-"Shattering" and Tikun-"Rectification". Each Patzuf is a Yosher-"Upright" scheme of all the sephirot around one of their number, analogous to the interrelated sephirot configuration in Man.
R. Isaac Luria, the Ari, recast Kabbalah into its second articulation, after R. Moshe Cordovero, the Ramak, had systemised differing Medieval interpretations of the Zohar. Philosophically influenced Medieval Kabbalah had described the 10 sephirot as Divine channels in a linear, emanated descending Creation. Lurianic Partzufim, instead, described dynamic interactions in Divine influence, where each Persona interacts and enclothes itself independently within the others, turning the unfolding of Creation into a dynamic scheme of spiritual enclothement, like a soul becoming enclothed in a body. In Lurianism, the original independent scheme of sephirot, described by Cordovero, precipitates the collapse of Tohu-"Chaos". Their reformation as Partzufim in the stable World of Atzilut begins cosmic repair. Man, whose soul embodies the harmonised order of Partzufim, achieves rectification of the three lower Worlds by redeeming the exiled Sparks of Holiness through Torah study and performance of mitzvot. The anthropomorphic metaphor of the Partzufim stressed the need by Kabbalists to divest the Lurianic concepts from false corporeal, materialistic analogy.
In Lurianic Kabbalah, the four realms of our created existence are arranged in a stable form, through the reconfiguration of the original sephirot into Partzufim. The first realm to exhibit this new arrangement is the mature form of Atzilut (the World of "Emanation"), therefore also called the "World of Tikun" (Rectification). This follows on from the Shevirah ("Shattering") of the sephirot vessels in the "World of Tohu" (Chaos), the initial, unstable form of Atzilut. In Tikun, the Sephirot evolve into the harmonised Partzufim new arrangements, where they can unite together. The realm of Tohu is characterised by abundant light (Ohr) and weak vessels, as the 10 sephirot act independently as absolute forces, causing it to collapse. Tikkun is characterised by lower lights in strong vessels, as through the Partzufim the sephirot inter-relate to absorb the illumination from Tohu.
Instead of each sephirah merely including a full subset of 10 Sephirot as latent potential forces, the first stage of their evolution in the Lurianic scheme, in the Parzufim the sephirot become full autonomous arrangements where all 10 sephirot are active forces of intellectual and emotional powers arranged around one of their number, analogous to the Yosher ("Upright") human-like configuration of the sephirot in three columns. They can now interact with the other Partzufim, becoming enclothed within them in dynamic interaction. For example, Arich Anpin, the Partzuf of Keter-Will means the "Long/Extended Face" as it acts as the foundational Divine Will within Creation, extending down through subsequent Partzufim, Sephirot and Worlds, though in successively more concealed mode. The task of man becomes the rectification of the fallen sparks of Tohu, the concealed sublime origins of lower Creation, latently active in their exiled state. The messianic goal is the union of the original great illumination of Tohu within mature vessels of Tikun, revealing the ultimate divine essence of both.
Anthropomorphism of the Partzufim
As Medieval Kabbalists never tire of stressing the unity and non-plurality in the concept of the Sephirot, so Luria stressed the metaphorical nature of the Partzufim. They are Divine "faces", manifestations of the Godhead, alternative aspects through which God manifests Himself, and do not imply any plurality in God. As Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai recounts in the Zohar:
Whatever I said of the Atika Kadisha, Holy Ancient-One, and whatever I said of the Zeir Anpin, is all One; everything is absolutely One. There is no division in Him, blessed be He and blessed be His Name forever. The sum of all this is: the Ancient of the Ancient and the Zeir Anpin are absolutely One. All is, was, and shall be; He will not change, He is unchanging, and he has not changed...Should you ask, what then is the difference between one and the other? It is all One, but from above His paths divide and from below judgement is found; from our perspective they differ one from another.
Primary and Secondary Partzufim
The 10 sephirot develop into 5/6 primary Partzufim, which further develop into pairs of Male and Female secondary Partzufim. The male principle in Kabbalah metaphorically denotes outward/emanator/giver, and the female principle denotes inward/receiver/nurturer, similar to the female process of pregnancy to nurture subsequent emanation. The terminology and system of Partzufim describes detailed and specific aspects of Divinity, their nature and function discussed in Kabbalah.
The fundamental Primary Partzufim and the Sephirot they develop from are:
- (Atik Yomin-"Ancient of Days", supreme "earliest/oldest" inner dimension of Keter Will from Ein Sof)
- Arich Anpin-"Long Face/Extending Patience", infinitely extending downwards source of divine compassion in Keter Will
- Abba-"Father", Chokhmah illumination of Wisdom insight, root of intellect on the "right" of the Sephirot (Revelation)
- Imma-"Mother", Binah intellectual Understanding nurturing pregnant emotions, on the "left" side of the Sephirot (Internalisation)
- Zeir Anpin-"Small Face/Short Patience", Son, 6 Sephirot emotions that shattered, born from Imma on "left" side (Judgement)
- Nukvah-"Female" of Zeir Anpin, Daughter, Malkuth reign in Feminine Shekhinah, born from Zeir Anpin on "left", man reunites
Full array of Partzufim
The full array of Primary Partzufim and the Secondary Partzufim that develop from them:
Unstable separated forces
Stable harmonised reconfigurations
Particular Male/Female subdivisions
|Atik Yomin ("Ancient of Days")
Inner level of Keter-Delight
Most primary earliest cause
Arich Anpin ("Long Face/Macroprosopus")
Outer level of Keter-Will
Descending Divine soul in Creation
|[Atik Yomin is Male "Ancient of Days"]
Nukvah d'Atik Yomin ("Female of Ancient of Days")
[Arich Anpin is Male "Long Face"]
Nukvah d'Arich Anpin ("Female of Long Face")
|Abba Ila'ah ("The Higher Father")
The power to spontaneously extract insight from the superconscious realm
Yisrael Saba ("Israel the Elder")
The power to subsequently direct insight into consciousness
The combination of Abba Ila'ah and Yisrael Saba
|Both partzufim of Chokhmah are male. For their female counterparts see primary partzufim of Binah|
Joined influence with Abba-Father
|Both partzufim of Binah are female. For their male counterparts see primary partzufim of Chokhmah|
|6 Emotional Attributes:
|Zeir Anpin ("Small Face/Microprosopus")
Revealed Ben ("Son")
Groom seeking unity with Nukvah
Torah study/Written Torah/Sun/Tree of Life
Revelation of Divine transcendence-Tetragrammaton
"The Holy One Blessed be He"
|Both partzufim of Zein Anpin are male and have their female counterparts in Nukvah
Yisrael (named after "Jacob-Israel")
The face that looks up
Yaakov (named after "Jacob", father of Israelites)
|Nukvah/No"k d'Zeir Anpin ("Feminine" of Zeir Anpin)
Receiving Bat ("Daughter")
Bride seeking unity with Zeir Anpin
Prayer/Oral Torah/Moon/Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil
Shechinah-Indwelling Divine Presence
|Both partzufim of Nukvah are female and have their male counterparts in Zein Anpin
Leah (named after First wife of Jacob)
Rachel (named after Second wife of Jacob)
Both of the secondary, male and female Partzufim of Atik Yomin and Arich Anpin exist within the same configuration. There are therefore only 10 distinct secondary Partzufim, and consequently the secondary Partzufim of Keter do not have particular names, unlike the secondary Partzufim of the other Sephirot.
Detailed Partzuf manifestations
The 6 primary and 12 secondary partzufim are the basic harmonised Divine manifestations in the Four Worlds of created existence. More specifically however, within their interaction are numerous more particular aspects of Divinity, each denoting a differentiated expression. In the Idrot narratives of the Zohar, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai discusses profound manifestations of the partzufim. The Idra Zuta, traditionally ascribed to his day of passing from this world, his Yom Hillula "wedding day", is considered the deepest teachings of the Zohar.
- The Stages of the Creative Process from God's Infinite Light to Our Physical World from www.inner.org. Includes detailed descriptions of particular partzuf manifestations
- The Partzufim - The Sefirotic Faces By Rabbi Ariel Bar Tzadok (Originally published in Panu Derekh #13)
- True Monotheism Kabbalistic understanding of the absolute Unity of Divine Manifestations, from inner.org